The distinguished lady

You’ve slogged through post after post of me going on and on about my goal to earn my master’s degree. You’ve listened to me whine about how I had to write loads and loads of words for my dissertation. You kept reading when I claimed the month of July to be Dissertation Month—despite the boring, droning nature of it all. You listened patiently when I doubted my abilities and feared that I might fail my course. And you’ve waited (on tenterhooks?) to hear what happened after I finally turned in my dissertation.

And now it’s time I finally share with you my happy news:

I will be graduating next Friday with a Master of Letters in Media and Culture from the University of Stirling—with full distinction!

Yes, I managed to not only earn a distinction on my dissertation, but on the degree as a whole—an achievement made by only one other person since the degree began however many years ago. My ego is well-and-truly swelled. I honestly didn’t think that I would get such an amazing mark on my dissertation—let alone my entire degree. But I have. So I must brag about it.

Graduation is next Friday here in Stirling and I am looking forward to celebrating my achievement with my sister-in-law, Liz, and brother-in-law, John, who are travelling up from England to help me mark the occasion. (If you would like, you can watch the live-streamed ceremony. It starts at 12:30.) I will also share some photos and stories from graduation here when the time comes.

And I’ll give you a fair warning: I am now keener than ever to research PhD opportunities. So I am sorry, but this isn’t the end of boring academic posts!

Oh! And I great big thank you to you, Dear Reader, for all of the support you’ve given me on this journey. It is appreciate more than you may ever know!

The dating game

Sometimes I think about dating. Only it’s a confusing topic for me. Not the dating part; I know how to do that. It’s more the mental and emotional part that has me uncertain. And not uncertain in an ‘Am I ready?’ way; uncertain in an ‘I am a mad woman’ way.

Worse, it’s more than one concern. So, I’m going to share them here and maybe the act of writing it down will help.

First, there’s the question of why I want to date. Is it because I’m lonely, bored, or restless? Is it because I don’t want to be alone? Is it because I feel a bit of social pressure? Is it because I actually feel that I’m ready to share my life with someone? Is it because I want to have someone to go to the movies with? Or is it because I want someone to curl up on the couch with?

I suppose it could be for all of those reasons. But if I don’t know why I want to date, then how do I know that I should be doing it?

Then, there’s the question of ‘What if I like him?’ I wonder if I would know why? I mean, if I meet some guy and he’s nice and I find myself liking him, how do I know that it’s him I like and not just the idea of him answering/solving the questions I asked about why I want to date? Is he really all that funny? Is he really all that nice? Or am I like the thirsty man who drinks sand in the desert?

But there’s also the question of ‘What if I don’t like him?’ Is it really that I don’t like him? Or am I just afraid and therefore finding flaws in flawless things? Or maybe I’m so confused that I can’t recognise the ‘spark’ that you feel when you meet someone new? Is it because somewhere in my mind he’s not Paul and that makes me feel guilty and so I run? Is it because I’m afraid that others will judge me for dating, so I’m avoiding it? Is it because I’m afraid that if I date, Paul’s family and friends will be hurt?

Of course, there’s also the fear of my legitimate dislike (or maybe just a disinterest) in a guy and when I voice that feeling the guy (or others around me) may think that it’s because I’m holding a candle for someone else and that I’m ‘damaged by widowhood’ or something. And whilst I admit that the concerns above are very much fears based on my marital status, I also know that—sometimes—I will just not like someone and that it has nothing to do with Paul.

Anyhow, there are millions of other questions and concerns that float through my head as I start to think about re-entering the dating world. And—believe it or not—some are even crazier than the ones I’ve shared.

So, I don’t know. Between bad experiences with dating sites and these confusing questions and realisations that keep popping into my head, maybe I ought to just start looking at getting a dozen cats instead

Cheap eats

I like setting budgets for myself because it keeps me accountable to, well, me. And, because I used to have to budget every penny or risk bounced checks, I’m pretty good at it. Better, because I like to come in under budget, it makes me spend less!

For the last year I’ve had a loose budget of £200 (approximately $310 US) per month to spend on groceries. Sometimes I’d go over that, but most times I would be under. But I’ve never been consistent with it. So, I’m going to start holding myself accountable, which means you get to read about my grocery budget from time-to-time!

Budget: £200 per month

In addition to food-based groceries, the following items will be included in the total:

  • Loo roll and cleaning products—but not personal care products
  • Wine, beer, and spirits
  • Lunches bought at work
  • Take-aways or delivery meals
  • Delivery or taxi charges to get the groceries home

Dinner or drinks out with friends do not count as they are in the entertainment budget and any money left over from one month cannot be rolled into the next month. Instead, remaining monies will be split between savings and my entertainment budget.

The idea is that a strict budget will force me to eat healthier—and wiser. I will be forced to think about my meals and plan them out a bit. I will be encouraged to take lunches to the office (often made from yummy leftovers) and I will make things that I like but that I’m generally too lazy to make.

Oh! And it means that I will get to talk about my homemade this-and-that a bit more. Maybe I’ll even get to share some more recipes with you. Or ‘how to’ YouTube videos! Yes, that will be fun!

And since you’re here, I can share with you that, so far, I’ve £68 for the month of August. Which is scary since it’s only the first week, but that included lots of staple items—including a bottle of vodka for my RyanCentric Martinis. Well, that is if you can call vodka a staple.

Stay tuned to find out if I’ve managed to stay within budget for the month! (If you care.)

Sing a song

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to sing—or hum or whistle or la-de-da. Now, I’m not saying I’m any good at it, I’m just saying I love to do it. And, often, I find myself doing it without even thinking about it. Yes, I just break out into a tune. (In a very out-of-tune kind of way.)

I sing in the shower. I hum as I type. I whistle as I walk down the road. Sometimes I sing, hum, or whistle a song, other times I just make it up as I go along. (But since my new job is in an open-plan office, I need to be very careful not to break into song at my desk!)

Most people talk to themselves; I sing to myself. A song when I’m alone in my flat might go something like this:

Oh, oh, oh. I think I might be hungry.
La-de-da. I wonder what’s in the fridge.
Oh! Look at that! There are lovely, lovely grapes.
Washy-washy lovely grapes.
How I love you, lovely grapes.

I know—my lyrics leave something to be desired!

I used to sing conversations with my foster daughter, too. She quickly learned that the more she complained that I was embarrassing her, the more I’d sing! (And the louder, too!)

I sing when I run. Or at least I try.

And I sing as I walk to town. Only I’m well-aware that I might look crazy, so I am sure to peek over my shoulder every-so-often to make sure no one is within ear shot. I hum as I walk through the shops (as softly as possible) and I la-de-da or whistle in the shops, too. And most of the time, I don’t even realise I’m doing it!

Yes, I am that kind of crazy.

But I wonder if I’m alone. Do you sing/hum/whistle in public? And are you always aware that you’re doing it?

Words about me

I am participating in an online thing where a few people are getting together to chat through a moderated forum run by a grief counsellor. It’s kind of an experimental thing run by the niece of a woman I used to know, and when the moderator went looking for participants, this woman suggested me.

Anyhow, the first ‘meeting’ was just a brief introduction of each other so that we knew why we were participating. And for the next meeting, we were asked to find out how others view us.

I thought about asking one or two friends to really talk to me about who they think I am, but in the end I decided to take it to Facebook. Which I did. And I asked everyone to give me a few words they’d use if they had to describe me to a friend.

The results, I must say, are interesting. And if you’re not familiar with word clouds, I’ll give you a hint and tell you that the more times a word is used, the larger the image of that word is. So, I guess that means that, ultimately, my friends think I’m quirky, strong, brave, and grammatical. (And loads of other things.)

Just Frances in Just Words

Anyhow, it was really interesting to me to see the sort of things people said. Quirky was expected as were grammar-related comments. I suppose runner, determined, and loving were not a surprise, either. But compassionate, inspiring/inspirational, and introspective weren’t. And, of course, some just made me smile. Like green and granola. All in all, I guess it’s a pretty fair description of me. Mostly the quirky bit, apparently.

Listening for the phone

When I was in high school, my sister (I think?*) wrote a poem that went something like this:

Lonely, all alone
by Celeste Mills*

Lonely, all alone
Listens for the phone
Listens for a call
From anyone at all
Listens for a ring
Saying anything
Lonely, all alone
Listens for the phone

Anyhow, I’m not sitting around in some desperate ‘please someone call me because I’m all alone’ kind of mood, but I am desperately wishing that my phone would ring.

In fact, for the past month I have been checking my landline to make sure that 1) it’s still working and 2) I haven’t missed a call. And I keep checking my mobile for the same reasons. And, if I’m completely honest, I may have called one from the other a couple of times just to be sure.

Yep, I’m desperate for my phone to ring. Mostly about jobs and interviews and stuff (mostly). But it’s been ever-so silent. So, here I sit. Listening for the phone. Even though I know that I’m not getting a call about a job interview on a Friday night.

* I keep forgetting to ask my sister if, in fact, it is her poem and I couldn’t get in touch with her today when I decided to write this post. And I’ve tried to search for it online to see if it belongs to someone else but can’t find it. If you know who wrote it please let me know so that I can give credit where it’s due (and so that I can apologise for this blatant act of copyright infringement).

A weighty issue

I’m fat. No, that’s not true. That’s so far from the truth that it’s laughable. Heck, I’m not even overweight. Still, I feel ‘fat’(ish).

Here’s the problem: After my marathon I stopped partaking in a normal running routine. And as the days turned to cold, wet, wintery weather, I stopped partaking in most exercise all together. I became rather sedentary, but I continued eating the same volume of food.

Add to all of that, my school schedule means that I have a lot of time on my hands. I don’t have an eight-hour office job to go to, and I’m certainly not spending a full eight hours on campus or at the library. And that means more time for eating out of boredom.

And worse, a long struggle with being sad over the holidays meant that I was less inclined to cook healthy meals and actually got into a habit of eating lots of high-fat, sodium-laden foods.

Combine all of those bad habits together and you get a gooey Frances.

Now, I really do know that I’m not fat. I still fit into my clothes and I can still button my jeans. The problem is that where once there was a super-flat, firm tummy and thighs and a back-side that didn’t jiggle too much, there is now a flabby tummy and wiggly-jiggly bum and thighs.

And it’s making me sad. I feel really mad at myself for letting my body get so out of control. I’m out of shape, I’m not drinking enough water, and I’m jiggling where once I didn’t jiggle.

How sad (and frustrated and desperate) am I? Well, I’ve found myself Googling terms like ‘fast weight loss’ and ‘weight loss food’. I’ve even looked at appetite suppressants. I just looked, but there was a little voice in my head that was saying: ‘Come on. Two weeks on that and you’ll be back to normal!’ No, that’s not a good thing for my mind to be saying to my body. In fact, that’s a stupid thing!

So, the solution: Well, for starters I need to run more. I’ve got my race-a-month challenge, but I need to get more training runs in not only for that, but for my overall health. I also need to eat less. I don’t mean starve myself; I mean cutting out the habit of eating a large bag of crisps in one sitting, or eating half my weight in olives and cheese after dinner every night. I need to drink more water (lots more!). And, I need to start eating healthier foods again—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.

I’m not fat. And I’m certainly not suffering from body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t know what I weight and I don’t care. Still, I want to be back to my normal. Which isn’t fat or skinny. It’s more average and toned maybe.

I’m not sharing this bit of information with the hope for advice or tips. I’m sharing it because saying it out loud will make me more accountable to myself to fix it. I’m sharing it because admitting my flaws makes me more determined to fix them.

And I promise that I’ll fix this slowly and without the aid of pills and potions. Good, old-fashioned exercise and healthy eating will set me straight—and will probably help my race times, too!

Pinching pennies

As I walked to the bus stop today, I stooped to pick up a two pence coin. It took two seconds—tops. But it made me smile for several moments. It also got me thinking more about the stigma some people put on the act (art?) of picking up loose coins found on the ground.

Then I started to think about the money I’ve found recently and I smiled even more as I realised just how fast it adds up. Then I started to do more maths. My initial calculations were based on a one-second retrieval rate which would equate to a time value of £36 per hour. (I’m not the only penny pincher who thought this was a fair rate, though I also found an argument for the paltry value of £2.40 based on a 15-second retrieval rate.)

However, I had a re-think and decided to give a two-second average retrieval rate because sometimes you do need to step out of your way for collection. So, I propose that picking up pennies found on the ground has a time value of £18 per hour.

And that’s assuming you only ever find pennies. But I quite often find silver coins, too. (Evidence: 11¢ find; Nickel find.) And sometimes, I even find paper money! So a two-second stoop-and-scoop can be far more profitable!

But for the maths, let’s stick to pennies and the two-second pick-up rate. If we accept the £18 per hour value and attribute that to a full-time job, you’d be on an annual salary of around £37,400.

Which makes me wonder: Why is there such a stigma to picking up pennies? I mean £37,400 is nothing to sneeze at when you realise that the 2011 median income was £26,200 (USA 2010 median: $26,364).

[Note: If you’re picking up American or Canadian pennies, the maths are the same; just swap out the £ symbol for a $ symbol.]

How about you? Are you a penny pincher? Do you smirk with glee at those little bits of glimmering money? Or maybe you’re not driven by the monetary reward. In that case, maybe you can think of pennies as a small gift from the universe. Or maybe coin-hunting can be that kooky way to bond with your family. Or if you’d rather, you can just walk past the coin and let someone like me pick it up. That would be OK, too!

First day, again

Yippee! After a too-long, two-month winter break I have finally started back to school. The new semester began on Monday with classes starting yesterday, but since I don’t have classes on Wednesday, I only got back to the classroom today. And it was fun!

OK, fun might not be the right word, but I really did enjoy it. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s class, too.

And back to school means dusting off the school supplies!

So I’ve got fresh ink in my printer (it ran dry when printing course materials earlier in the week) and a couple of new note books for jotting down thoughts when I’m not able to type them out. I also have plenty of Post-Its and page flags for marking pages and taking notes when I’m reading, and highlighters for highlighting course notes and handouts. (I rarely use highlighters or pens in books—that’s a bad thing to do!)

And, of course, I’ve got Little Green, my super-fantastic netbook that I take to class with me. It really is the sign of the modern era, because in my undergraduate studies I had a desktop and laptop computer, but certainly wouldn’t have lugged something to class with me. Now, I power up at the start of each class and I search out further information on the spot (then bookmark the websites for later review).

Oh, and I have some text books, too. I’ll tell you more about them later.

Yeah, I’m pretty excited to be back at school. And once I’ve attended each of my four classes I will tell you a bit about them—because I know you want to know! For now, I have some reading to do for tomorrow’s class so I need to sign off.

But not before I remind you to enter my anniversary competition that I posted yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed the entries so far and would love to be entertained with a few more! (Don’t be shy!)

Like the back of my hand

How many times have we been told that someone is so certain of their directions because they know the place like they know the back of their hand? For most of us, I imagine the answer would be countless times.

Personally, I don’t know that I’ve ever said it—mostly because I think it’s a stupid saying. But if I’m honest, I’ve always wondered just how well I ‘really’ know the back of my hand.

Well, today (yes, I’m bored!) I decided to see just how well I know the back of my hand. And—lucky you!—you get to see the results.

I chose my left hand because that’s the one with the most stuff on it. To start with, I traced my hand onto a piece of paper then I allowed myself a few moments to study my hand. No more than 10 seconds or so. Next, I placed a glove on my hand to ensure I wouldn’t cheat.

Then I began to sketch a map of my hand. (This was a bit difficult with a glove, but I wasn’t going for perfection.) I decided that I would include major veins, freckles, specs, and scars. Then I decided to add approximate locations of joints and knuckles.

The results? Pretty bad, I think—especially if I plan to use the memorisation of my hand as a correlation to my abilities to give directions!

For starters, my knuckles are actually further back than I drew them. (The other finger joints seem close enough.) Next, my fingernails are not drawn at representative sizes. Moving on, the veins are wrong. The main one (the Y-shaped one) is fairly close, but the other two I have shown are pointing in the wrong direction in relation to my fingers. Oh! And there are a couple of veins that seem to have been missed out all together.

Then there are my freckles. OK, the two large ones in the centre are pretty accurate, but there are four others on the back of my hand that (whilst very small) went completely unmapped. Oh, then there’s this little red spot on my thumb that’s been there for years but isn’t actually a freckle. Apparently, it’s nearly on top of my thumb’s knuckle, not toward the thumbnail!

The scar I have shown actually curves the other way. (It’s not that noticeable, either.) Also, I failed to make note of other small scars.

So, do I know the back of my hand very well? No, not as well as you’d think, given it’s been attached to my arm since before I was even born!

How about you? How well do you know the back of your hand?

One down

Well, today marks the end of my first semester as a postgraduate student. It’s been a crazy and hectic journey to get to this point, but I got here and I’m alive to tell the story!

I admit that there was a time I worried that I would never even start on my master’s degree. Paul’s death shook me to the core and even though I know that this is what he would want for me, I just couldn’t find the motivation to apply to schools. And even then, I didn’t know how I would pay for it. But, I applied and I got accepted and I figured out a way to pay for it all. And even though it means I am living on a very tight budget, this is a very positive step.

The school year got off to a good start, but then a few weeks ago the stress of the holidays and a low platelet count, Paul’s would-be birthday, and a couple other personal conflicts distracted me. Yes, I got myself into such an emotional state that I actually began to doubt my abilities and wondered if this whole adventure was a mistake.

In fact, at the height of my turmoil, I had two major essays to write for two different modules. One was 50 percent of my overall mark—the other was 100 percent of my grade for that module. With each paper, I turned them in with regret. I honestly feared that I may have failed—or came near to failure.

I got the grade for the first paper late last week with a very good mark. In fact, I double checked because I didn’t think I read it correctly. And since I also had an exam for that module (which would be the remaining 50 percent of my grade) that mark made me less apprehensive about the exam.

The other paper was marked and ready for collection yesterday, but I opted to pick it up today after my exam (the one mentioned above). In fact, I decided to pick it up after the exam because I was so worried that the mark would completely deflate me and that it would affect my ability to sit the exam.

But at the last moment I decided to pick up the paper before the exam. And I was so, so, so, so pleased to see that I got a mark of distinction. Yes! On a paper that I was certain would be below average or even—dare I say?—a failure mark. A distinction. Really. And let me just say that I beamed. It was such a moment of joy for me that all of my worries and fears about the pending exam went away. All of the sudden, nothing else mattered. I was smart—and I had a marked essay to prove it!

In the end, I think I did pretty well on my exam. I didn’t ace it, but I didn’t fail it. And that’s OK. Because I got great marks on all my papers (a distinction on one, if you didn’t catch that earlier) and I am feeling confident about my abilities once again.

So, my first semester is done. Teaching resumes for spring semester in mid-February then my dissertation is due in August. I’m excited about the winter break, but I’m more excited about next semester and my dissertation. In fact, you can guarantee that I will be doing some reading for next semester over the break. And I’ve already started to give some real thought to that dissertation.

And all of this means that, in about a year’s time, you might get to read about my excitement of completing my first semester as a PhD student.

(Oh, and did I mention that I got a distinction on one of my essays today?)

Making do; Part 2

Back in November I talked about the practice of ‘making do’ in my efforts to host a Thanksgiving dinner for friends. I was really pleased that all of that making do worked out, especially since I’ve found myself needing to make do again. But this time, making do had nothing to do with food. Instead, I found myself having to make do with what I had to wrapping parcels.

For years, I collected used gift bags and tissue paper, bows and ribbons, and even wrapping paper and boxes. I had it all neatly organised so that I could easily wrap up gifts for family and friends. I had such a selection of stuff that I almost always found the right size bag, box, or used bit of paper for everything. But when I moved, I passed on my collection to my baby sister, Royann. And that means there isn’t an awe-inspiring collection of wrapping supplies tucked away in the hall closet. (I hope she appreciates the time it took me to amass such a collection, and I hope she’s using the supplies whilst continuing to replenish them with her own reclaimed materials!)

Then yesterday I found myself looking at purchasing wrapping paper, shipping boxes, and bubble wrap for sending parcels home for Christmas. And I have to admit that as I stood there looking at the available stock in the shops made me sad as I recalled (once again) all of the stuff (i.e.: clutter) I had to leave behind when I ventured out for this new future of mine.

So I went home empty-handed. No, really. I went home with nothing because the idea of having to buy those things broke my heart. When I got home, however, I started to look at what I had. I had printer paper and coloured pencils, so I would make wrapping paper. (I didn’t.) I had a few boxes from things I bought when I moved into my flat—but they were all either too big or too small. And I had some wrapping paper from a lovely housewarming gift that Rebecca gave me.

Ah! And I had scissors and a bag filled with plastic bags (from before I got my re-usable ones). And with that, I got to work.

It seems that the gifts I bought for my nieces and nephews were small enough to be placed in envelopes with their Christmas cards and there was just enough of that wrapping paper from Rebecca for the gifts I got for my folks and my lovely [former] foster daughter. Then, I found a used (but usable) padded envelope that was large enough for my foster daughter’s gift to fit in. But I was having trouble finding a box for the stuff for my nieces, nephews, and parents (it was all being shipped to the folks’ place to save on costs).

But wait! Who needs a box to be the ‘right’ size when you have scissors? It seemed to me that there was a box that could be the perfect size—if I cut it down a bit. And padding? Well, since the nieces and nephews’ gifts aren’t breakable, they got to help provide protection for the folks’ gifts, along with some crumpled plastic bags (which I know the folks will recycle on my behalf).

And that’s it. I had to buy some packing tape, but that’s something I can’t really re-use anyhow.

Of course, now I need to figure out how I will wrap the rest of my gifts. But since they didn’t need to go to the post office for international shipping, I can give myself a few days to scrounge around. And there is still that printer paper and coloured pencils if all else fails!

Paranoia

Last week I finally got around to seeing my new doctor and this week I’m regretting it just that little bit. You see, on the outside I look like a perfectly healthy, 37-year-old woman. (Though some people think I look younger than that, which is cool.) On the outside, no one would ever guess that on the inside my body is not-so-healthy.

Of course, the problem with looking healthy and (mostly) feeling healthy is that I sometimes forget that I’m not as healthy as I appear. And when I neglect to go to the doctor’s office for checkups, I can forget a lot easier. (Kind of.)

Anyhow, back to the story: Last week I went to meet my new doctor and he promptly had me schedule an appointment for blood work—a standard procedure for someone with ITP. So, on Friday afternoon I went back for labs and was told I’d have the results in about a week. And when the phone rang Monday morning and the person on the other end introduced herself as someone from the clinic, my heart sank. It’s never a good thing when you get a call…

And so, yesterday I learned that my platelet count is 50. (Normal range is 150-400.)

Now, that’s not a really bad number (I’m normally around 70-80) but it’s always a bit worrying because I never know if a lower-than-my-normal number is because it was really low and is now climbing up, or if it’s on its way down. Which means stress and worry and paranoia.

The doctor wants me to go back in on Monday for another blood draw to see where I am. I’m hoping that it’s climbing up because I’ll be a little (maybe even a lot) sad if it goes lower.

And that means that for the next few days I will be obsessed with ITP and platelets. I will worry about this, that, and the next thing. I will have irrational fears that it’s getting worse. I will dream about cutting my finger and bleeding forever. I will second guess every niggly little twinge (Yikes! Is that spontaneous internal bleeding?) and will panic at the smallest bruise. I will be afraid to exert too much energy and I will worry that I’m pushing myself too hard. I will wonder if I’m tired because I’ve just spent a day running errands or if it’s ITP-induced fatigue.

I’m always careful and aware of my condition(s), but it seems that my carefulness goes into overdrive when I know that my counts are low. You see, this is why I shouldn’t have gone to the doctor. It I hadn’t gone, I would never have known, and I could have carried on pretending that I’m just a normal, every-day, healthy 37-year-old woman.

However, it’s OK. I’m OK. Everything will be OK. So please don’t worry about me. I’m not in any danger; I’m not sick and dying. I just have a lower platelet count than I want.

It’s days like this when I really miss Paul. I mean, he would be just as obsessed as I am about my counts and would commiserate or celebrate with me when the numbers came in. And, of course, if they were lower than I’d hoped, Paul could be counted on to wait on me hand-and-foot and completely fuss over me with his ‘A woman in your condition…’ line. And even though I didn’t need to be fussed over, it was nice.

But now the real question is how I can spin this so that I can get my friends to fuss and take pity on me and come over to clean my flat. You know, because I shouldn’t stress myself out just now. You know, in case it has an adverse effect on next week’s counts. I mean, a woman in my condition… (No? No volunteers? Darn!)

[Note: That’s a picture of my platelets from last year. So, those 10 guys are like the ancestors of the 50 I have now.]

Warming up

I’ve been upset about Thanksgiving for a while now. Like really, really upset. I know it’s silly, but that’s the way it’s been. (As I’ve said.)

But all of the sudden, it’s getting better. It seems that there has been a late-comer (or two or three) to the party and Thanksgiving will maybe feel a little less like just having two friends over for dinner (not that having two friends over for dinner isn’t something to be thankful for) and a little more like a proper Thanksgiving. Well, as close to it as you can get when you’re not in America.

So now I’m getting all warmed up and I’m trying to figure out just how to get it all done. I’ve got pies to bake (will anyone like pumpkin pie?) and bread to rip (you know, for the stuffing). And I’ve got dill pickles to find and serving dishes to sort. In addition to regular dishes and chairs and stuff.

Oh, and drinks. Must figure out drinks. And I should decide what vegetables to serve. And I should try to find fresh cranberries so that I can make sauce.

But don’t worry—I have the olives (all the way from America!) and even noticed today that they’re jumbo-sized so they’ll fit on adult fingers. Because you have to put olives on your fingers for Thanksgiving.

Oh! And to add to my renewed interest in Thanksgiving, I’m totally pleased that Das Gute Essen linked to my bladenda post in their Thanksgiving post today. Yay, yay, and yay again!

[The picture with this post is of our Thanksgiving table from 2008. What a wonderful memory that day has left for me!]

Chalk it up to intelligence

Since the beginning of June, I’ve been a bit remiss about organising my digital files. I think I got a bit crazy with my foster daughter moving, followed by quitting my job, leaving my house, moving to Scotland, starting school, and well, just life in general!

But the point is this: Tonight I got around to looking at some of the photos that I’ve taken over the past few months* and I found one of the sidewalk chalk drawing my foster daughter made for me a couple of days before she left. She was so excited to drag me out of the house to see it and I was so excited to see her so excited about it!

Yes, the kid thought I was pretty awesome. When we’d go into town, she insisted on introducing me to everyone as her ‘awesome foster mom’. She failed to acknowledge, however, that I couldn’t have been an awesome foster mom without having such an awesome foster kid.

Anyhow, I just thought I’d share the kid’s artwork. I miss seeing her drawings every day (I miss seeing her every day!), but at least I know she’s still happily drawing away in her new home. In fact, when we spoke on the phone last week, I asked if she needed/wanted anything and her only request was a new sketch book with the Loch Ness Monster or a Scottish flag on it.

I wonder what I’ll find the next time I flip through my photos …

* Don’t worry! I’m not one of those people who keep photos on the camera for months and months at a time. I’ve been transferring to my computer and backup drive; I’ve just not filed all of them in their respective folders.

The counting begins

I am counting down the days until The Big Move takes place. Not in exact days mind you, because I won’t buy my ticket until I have my visa in hand. But in some form or another, I’ve been counting down since I got my acceptance email from the University of Stirling way back in November 2010. Of course, the first stage of my countdown was done in secrecy because I was counting down the weeks before I could give notice at work. Which I did about two months before I’d planned to because I just couldn’t handle the stress of the secret!

But now that work knows I’m outta here, I can count it all down out loud. And here’s the breakdown:

  • Days until I’m an unemployed bum: 37
  • Days left in the office: 25
  • Number of office Mondays remaining: 4
  • Days before classes start: 102
  • Days until I move home to Scotland: 70 (or thereabouts)

Of course, for excited as I am about these numbers, I also have to remember that it’s only 37 days until I am without an income—expendable or otherwise. And it’s only about 70 days until I have to say goodbye to my parents and nieces and nephews and siblings and my beloved Schrodie—and my friends and my life here in America.

I’m sure that once I arrive in Scotland I will start counting down the days until I can return to the homeland for a visit. Or maybe I’ll be counting down the days until my family come to visit me in Scotland. Or maybe I’ll be counting down the days until I have my PhD…

You know, for someone who hates maths, I sure do enjoy countdowns!

Loosey goosey

Back in February I told you about a never ending project I’ve been working on with left over bits of yarn. And I mentioned that the stitching was getting looser as I went, making the project all catawampus. At first, I thought I’d just deal with it. But then my obsessive compulsive tendencies got the better of me and I couldn’t continue.

All of the sudden, I began to stress out about this project. It seemed such a waste, but I couldn’t possibly accept this horribly skewed thing. So I thought I’d start completely over—stitching with a larger hook and using a loose stitch from the first row. That would make the project go faster, too, which sounded good to me. But once I began that plan—stitching as I unravelled—I determined that wouldn’t work either because it just didn’t look right.

So I started to think maybe I’d just bin the whole project. No harm; no foul.

But I couldn’t bring myself to do that. So my remaining option was to unravel to the point where my stitching went awry. That thought made me sad, but at least there wouldn’t be any waste.

Which means I’ve spent a couple of hours unravelling my lovely afghan. And now I get to spend many, many, many more re-stitching. And, with a bit of consistency and discipline, maybe it will work the way it’s meant to this time around.

(One day, Mom, this will make it to your bed. I promise!)

Lost

Last month I decided to write a blog post about the one and only “mixed tape” that was ever made for me. Well, I say mixed tape but it was actually a CD; it was titled “So, I Made You A Mixed Tape” and was a gift from Paul a few months before our wedding.

In addition to the CD, he made a fun cover with photos of the two of us. And as a bonus, inside was a folded-up sheet of A4 paper that included notes on why he chose the songs he did.

But when I went to grab the CD last month it wasn’t there. It didn’t seem to be anywhere, in fact. But I told myself that was OK—I probably placed it somewhere and would run across it when I had a better look later. Surprisingly, I stayed calm at the time. I mean, it was the eve of the anniversary of his death, so I would have expected this inability to find something to have been a melting point. But it wasn’t; it was only mildly upsetting.

Anyhow, for the past two weeks I’ve searched high-and-low. I’ve gone through every drawer in the main bits of the house—two or three times. I’ve searched under the seats, in the trunk, and in the glove box of my car. I’ve called to have my sister do the same with my old car, too. I’ve opened every CD to see if (somehow) the mixed CD and A4 paper got put in the wrong case.

And I can’t find it. And I’m lost at what to do now.

I mean, I transferred the songs to my iPod long ago so I have the music, which is something, but I don’t have that stupid scrap of paper and try as I may I can’t remember what he wrote for all of those songs. And it’s no longer just mildly upsetting.

I really hope that I’ll be able to write an embarrassing update shortly saying that—in a moment of madness—I had actually placed the CD in the freezer or something, but those who know me also know that I almost never lose things (other than my mind). I may lock the keys in the car on (rare) occasion. I may have to dig through piles of clutter to locate something from time-to-time. But I don’t lose things.

I wouldn’t have lent it out. I wouldn’t have thrown it out. I can’t see why I would have put it anywhere other than with the rest of my CDs. So I don’t know. I just don’t know. But it’s really starting to get to me now. And I’m crying over having lost a stupid CD. I fear my [remaining shred of] sanity will be next …

[Note: This post has been updated to reflect the error that my niece so gleefully pointed out to me. Happy now, Flik?]

The dressing room

The thing I hate most about buying clothes (second only to parting with money) is trying on clothes. I hate trying on clothes. I hate it so much that if I don’t have success with my first trip to the dressing room, I will often call off my shopping trip and leave. But if I manage the (rare) treat of loving the first thing I try on, I can be encouraged to try on more stuff.

This hatred of trying on clothes is why I own so much old stuff. It fits, I know it fits, it’s comfortable, so I keep wearing it—despite current trends and styles.

But (as is a common theme of this blog lately) I need to start getting rid of stuff. And that means going through all of my clothes and trying stuff on. All of it. After all, there’s no point in transporting something 6,000 miles only to find out it doesn’t fit quite right anymore.

Anyhow, I spent a few hours trying on clothes today. Lots and lots and lots of clothes. And what I’ve found is that I have a lot of clothes that I can ditch without concern. But there’s also a lot of clothes that I can’t seem to part with because I like them and I wear them—despite my owning them for more than a decade. But thanks to Facebook and a digital camera, I am able to get feedback on some things from my friends, which means that the ‘ditch’ pile has grown! (Which is OK.)

As an added bonus, I’ve made my foster daughter go through her clothes, too. I mean, she’s been growing like a weed since her arrival last August and she’ll be moving on to her permanent home soon. It would be unfair of me to send her there with ill-fitting rags. Right?

I made her get rid of jeans that were waaayyy too tight and ones with holes in the britches so she hates me now because she wanted to keep them. And I am evil for making her try on clothes. Bad foster mommy. Bad!

On the plus side, I’ve told her I’d take her shopping since her wardrobe has dwindled considerably because of the chore. She’s happy about that.

I suppose that I should confess at this point that I have yet to go through Paul’s clothes. I know it’s been more than two years, but I haven’t wanted to do it. A friend had [kind of] planned to come out and help, but it never happened so I have to do it alone. I’ve gotten as far as knowing that there are a couple of things I want to keep for myself and I’ve decided that I’ll offer up ties to nephews (and nieces) but I’m at a loss as to how to handle the rest of his clothes. But I’d best figure it out soon! Or maybe I just need to pack it away in storage bins. We’ll see…

Anyhow, it seems I have a lot of extra space in my closet now. And it seems that I’ll have a bit more space in my luggage for important things like gadgets and cough syrup. So that’s cool!

For the record

I picked up my medical records today so that I can give a copy of my medical history to my new GP when I arrive in Scotland. I’m a little nervous about passing them off, however, and have decided that I will scan them all before I leave so that they’re not lost in the system.

Now, I have to say this next part carefully, because one of Paul’s old school friends* works for the Scottish health system and knows something or other about how medical records are transferred and blah, blah, blah. We once had a broad conversation on the topic and I don’t think we agreed with each other’s views. Mostly because I was right and he wasn’t. [Enter cheeky grin here.]

But it must be said: I don’t have full faith the UK’s medical records system.

Mind you, it’s not because I don’t trust the system, but rather it’s because the system is too big and I have no control of my records once they are handed over. (Much like the military hospitals here, I imagine.) Once I hand over my records, they ‘belong to’ the government-run system. I don’t know if I have a problem with this because I have a healthy habit of questioning my government’s actions, or if it’s because I’m an American and my government has no right to own (or to know about) my medical history.

But you see, in Scotland (and the whole of the UK) health care is socialised** and I don’t get to pick-and-chose who my doctors are (unless I pay for private care). It also means that if I move three miles away, I may need to register with a new GP and my medical records will be automatically transferred. The good part of that is that I don’t need to do anything for that to happen. The bad part is that if I feel there are errors in my records, the new GP will have that (potentially) incorrect information. It also means that, when seeking second opinions, medical care providers will have access to records which could inhibit their ability to give a non-biased opinion.

So I don’t know; there’s just something wrong (in my opinion) about my medical records being part of the government’s database and therefore subject to the National Archive’s Data Protection Act. But, I want to move to Scotland and I may will need a doctor when I get there. So I guess that I need to play by their rules. And thankfully, Scotland is one of those counties where I’ll not be executed for having an opinion contrary to that of the government’s.

I wonder if other expats have these concerns, or if it’s just another case of me being a little off-kilter.

Anyhow, I guess that’s one more thing I can check off my to-do list. Sadly, I think I’ve added about a dozen things to that same list in the last week…

(And for those counting, there are only 104 days remaining until I’m an unemployed bum–and only 71 of those days are actually working days. Yay me!)

[Disclaimer: I realise that I do not have a full understanding of the health system in the UK and that my statements and opinions may be grossly unfair. I also realise that there are great differences between UK and US medical systems on many levels and that each have their pros and cons. This post is in no way meant as a political or social commentary on those systems, but rather a commentary on my own personal feelings and insecurities (rightly or wrongly) about handing off my medical history to a system that gives me less control and access to that information moving forward than what I am accustomed to currently.***]

* I say Paul’s friend, but in fairness he is also my friend. Though I bet sometimes he wishes that weren’t the case!
** Apologies again to UK family and friends; the term socialised health care is just what we use state-side to describe government-supplied care and in no way means I think you’re all socialists.
*** Gaining a full copy of my records was as easy as signing my name to a very easy-to-understand form then waiting two days for them to be ready. No fees, no additional red tape, no hassles.

A public service announcement

This will be a short post—or rather, a short public service announcement—because I am using my Dad’s netbook as I am unable to get online with my own awesome laptop.

Why can’t I get online? Because my parents got a new Internet service provider. And when the provider came over to set things up they were handed a business card with a long, difficult-to-remember string of numbers to use as the network key.

And like many people, they never changed the code to something they’d remember. And they’ve lost the card.

This is not the first time I’ve run into this problem. And I bet others have run into this problem, too.

So, my PSA to you is this:

Make sure that you know your network key. Because not only can it be a nightmare for your guests, but it can make it difficult to go online with your new gadgets and gizmos if you don’t know the magic code.

No, wait! Just as I typed the last sentence, Daddy found the card with three lines each containing 10 characters. One of these is meant to be the magic code. I guess I’ll go see if it works on my laptop now…

National Grammar Day

It’s National Grammar Day here in the fantastic United States of America. Are you as excited about that as I am? No? Well, I suppose I didn’t expect you to be. But I am super-duper excited!

I thought long and hard about what to write about for this celebratory day but I couldn’t find the right angle. So instead, I’ll just share some random thoughts.

To start with, you’ve maybe noticed that Just Frances is not written in my best ‘grammar-ific’ style. I try to keep it all very conversational here—and that means run-on sentences as well as incomplete ones. It also means that I start sentences with conjunctions and end them with prepositions. And I don’t care!

My decision to write in such an informal manner came as I thought about my audience. Not that I think my audience can’t handle full-on formal writing, but because my audience is family and friends so ‘casual conversation’ just seemed more fitting. Plus that, I’ve been accused of being a language and grammar snob for quite some time, so I thought I’d leave that to my professional life and my linguist forums and blogs where people love my wordsnobbery.

Of course, the awesome thing about being oh-so-casual-and-conversational here is that I can say things like ‘wordsnobbery’. Which is cool. (See, I did more of that casual stuff by starting a sentence with which. This is fun!)

[A note about my professional life for those who care: I am a communications professional and get paid to write and edit. Yes, believe it or not, I really do! I love my job and I love linguistics in general. But this, as I said, is my personal blog so I’m keepin’ it casual. Yay!]

Blah, blah, blah… Let’s move on now.

For a while, I thought about writing about the differences between American and British English. But then I realized that no one who reads my blog probably cares about the differences. So then I thought that, at the very least, I should point out that I’ve decided to work toward[s] incorporating more and more British English into Just Frances—in the form of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as idioms and word usage. Of course, this just means that I probably seem quite illiterate to some folks. And that’s OK. (My decision to do that is so that I can brush up on the language before I move back over this summer.)

Oh! And I guess that I should devote a paragraph to my mantra about English being a living language. The basic idea is that the rules for grammar, spelling, and punctuation that we use now are not what we used 100 years ago and aren’t what we’ll use in another 100 years. Our language has evolved—and will continue to evolve—forever.

At best, our language is a theory. However, there are certainly rules and best practices in place that should be adhered to. But you can fudge that, too. I mean, I don’t follow all of the rules here and that’s OK. But I wouldn’t dare write like this at work or for any official business. There’s a time and a place to break the rules, after all. So, txt spk on the net all u wnt. However, please refrain from the use of non-standard English when preparing your monthly reports for your manager.

And now, I’m sure you have a stack of sentences you want to diagram and infinitives you want to split, so I’ll leave you with a couple of quick thoughts:

The old rule ‘I before E except after C’ is a lie. There are too many exceptions for it to be a rule. So please stop teaching it to your children.

It is acceptable to use an Oxford comma (also called a serial comma). You just need to use it consistently and in accordance to the style guide approved by your industry or organisation.

And finally, check out some fun language books such as:

Happy National Grammar Day to you!

Sharpies and Bics and Uni-Balls—Oh my!

I promised myself that I would go through junk every week so that by the time I’m ready to start packing, I’ve rid myself of most of the un-needed clutter. A couple of weeks ago, I went through my card and stationery supplies, last weekend I began the process of sorting through some clutter stored under the eaves, and today it was the drawers on left-hand side of my desk.

I thought the biggest hurdle would be the bottom drawer because that’s where I’ve been shoving un-opened mail for the last year. So I emptied the contents onto the coffee table, grabbed my letter opener, and started sorting. And it was actually quite easy since most of the envelopes were just old bank statements and bills that I paid online. When I was done, I had a huge pile of rubbish to shred and a stack of envelopes for the recycle bin. The smallest pile was maybe ¼ inch thick and consisted of things that I needed to file away.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!!

The middle drawer was up next. It was fairly simple in part because it contained the previously-sorted stationery and in part because it is only ½ as deep as the bottom drawer so there wasn’t too much clutter in there!

Finally, I opened the top drawer. This is the drawer where I store the majority of my pens as well as some Post-Its and note paper and random bits-and-bobs that I’ve shuffled away ‘for later’.

First, I shuffled the Post-Its to a new location (to be sorted later) then I sorted the random bits-and-bobs. That was the easy part.

Next, I sorted through the pens tossing out those that were dried up and passing on those that I never liked to my foster daughter (who actually did need pens). But I realised that even with that process done, I have way more pens that I can ever use between now and August when I head to Scotland.

Then the panicked insanity began.

The thoughts going through my head were things like:

  • Frances—you really need to keep all of these pens and markers and highlighters because you will be going to school in Scotland and you’ll need them.
  • But, Frances, remember that you have a limited amount of luggage space and you’ll want to bring your reference books and gadgets and maybe even some clothes with you.
  • And remember—you can buy new pens and stuff when you get to Scotland.
  • But, wait! You’ll have a very limited budget so should you really use it to buy things that you already have?
  • Besides, your folks and friends can bring more stuff for you when they come and visit.
  • So go ahead, Frances, keep those pens and markers and highlighters. It’s the right thing to do!

Honestly, the thought of parting with these silly things freaks me out. It’s not because I’m transposing my emotions onto them—it’s because I am an office supply junkie.

I am frightened at the prospect of sorting through my Post-Its and note pads. And the idea of parting with my paper clips and tape dispensers? Oh my! I may need to change my monthly grief counselling appointments to weekly packrat counselling sessions!!

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

A year of Just Frances

It’s been a year since I started Just Frances. Whilst it’s certainly not my first blog, it is unique in that I’ve actually put my name and face to it!*

In the past year, there have been: 5,897 unique visitors (based on IP addresses; not including bots and the like); 527 search terms used to find these pages; 806 approved comments; 1,092 comments caught by my awesome spam blocker; and a whopping 315 stories posted.

In the past year, I’ve shared some of my poetry and drawings with you; I’ve shared my happiness; and I’ve shared my sorrows. I’ve uploaded several YouTube videos to speak directly to my awesome readers and I’ve shared photos of my adventures.

This blog has been a tremendous help to me as I grieve for Paul and the future we once dreamt of, and as I contemplate a new future that is now in the works. If you don’t write for public consumption, you may not understand the therapeutic value that blogging brings, but I promise you it is a true therapy for me.

But whilst this blog serves as a form of therapy for me, I also want it to be something of value for my readers. To that, please feel free to participate! You are always welcome to comment on my posts, but you can also ask questions or suggest things you’d like me to write about. Want more video uploads? More photos? More drawings? Please feel free to let me know! I even have a handy-dandy comment form (look for the tab at the top of the page) if you want to contact me privately!

And there you have it. A year of Just Frances.

So thank you, Dear Reader, for your support and encouragement over the past year! Just knowing you’re out there reading the nonsense I’m posting makes me smile and gives me the strength to continue. You’re awesome!

* RyanCentric was the first website I put my name and face to, but it was more website than blog so I’m not counting it for the purpose of the aforesaid statement.

Too much

Sometimes I try to do too much all at once. And sometimes, that means that my coffee table suffers and becomes covered in half-finished projects.

Currently, it is straining under the weight of my nail file kit (I love French Connection UK!); a stack of note cards that I’m sorting through; my drawing supplies; an on-going practice page for my swirl drawings; a couple of journals and notebooks; my embroidery floss case and partially-finished friendship bracelets; yarn and the half-finished afghan it goes to; and all sorts of other bits-and-bobs—only half of which actually belong on top of the coffee table.

Thankfully, my sister and nephew are coming over for the weekend so that my nephew and I can participate in the Partners in Pain 5K. Company means I will put stuff away, which is a good thing. Though if I wouldn’t try to do too much at once, it would never get this bad in the first place.

Challenging music

Over the summer, my friend set a challenge to listen to all of her iPod’s music collection alphabetically. A through Z; every song. Every. Last. Song.

I recall admiring her dedication and I also recall thinking it must have been easy enough since she had less than 1,500 songs and I assumed they were all music of her choosing. I recall smiling as I realised that she was truly enjoying the challenge—and enjoying re-discovering her music. She made several comments about how others should do the same, and I was mildly interested in trying it, but not enough to actually take on the challenge.

Until September 30, 2010.

Yep, that morning I got to the office, plugged in my iPod, and instead of selecting ‘shuffle’ I chose to play every song I had in alphabetical order. A through Z; every song.*

Every.

Last.

Song.

That was 130 days, 4,868 songs, and 313+ hours of play time ago.**

It was fun.

It was boring.

It was mind-numbingly boring at times.

It was exciting.

And it was educational.

So, here are some fun little facts, figures, and musical musings for you to ponder:

  • Letter with the most song titles: “S” with 540 songs
  • Letter with the least song titles: “Z” with 3 songs
  • Number of songs starting with numerals (so, “1” but not One): 21
  • Number of artists: 452
  • Number of albums: 555
  • Number of genres: 34
  • Song I have the most versions or copies of: “N17” by The Saw Doctors (Six copies)

Would I do it again? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe? But I’m not willing to make a promise at this point!

Would I recommend that you do it? Absolutely! It really is interesting and entertaining—especially when you hear long-lost tunes.

* Actually, A-Z plus 0-9, because some started with numerals.
** To save myself from complete madness, I opted to only attempt the challenge whilst at work which means that it took a bit longer to make my way through the collection than it would have otherwise.

Just two minutes

I used to be able to sit in complete silence and just be at peace with myself. I used to be able to curl up with a book and focus on only the story I was reading. I used to be able to listen to music and not think of anything other than the sounds coming from the speakers.

But when Paul died, I found that I was no longer at peace with myself, nor could I focus on a single task. I needed constant stimulation to get through the day: TV, music, Facebook, real books—you name it. And often, I had them all on the go at once. It was the only way to stave off the sadness and tears long enough to get me from one hour to the next.

And now, I’ve found that I don’t need constant stimulation to hide from my grief anymore—I need it because it’s become a part of my routine. I no longer know how to function without a constant stream of noise and distraction.

Which is why one of my goals for the new year is to focus my mind. I’m working on the art of single-tasking. This means that when I take my shower, I am only thinking about my shower—not planning my day. When I’m driving down the road, I am only thinking about the feel of the wheel, the curve of the road, the pressure of my foot on the gas pedal—not rehashing a conversation in my head.

Sound easy? It’s not. I fail at single-tasking all the time. But I’m getting better.

Well, I say I’m getting better but I can’t manage to do nothing for two minutes. And that frustrates me.

But I’m not one to give up. So once I post this, I’m going to turn off all the noise in the house then I’m going to sign out of my email and Facebook accounts, and then I’m going to attempt at doing nothing for two minutes. And once I succeed at that, I’m going to shut down the computer (without re-checking emails or Facebook) and I’m going to go to bed—where I plan to single-task my way to a peaceful night’s sleep.*

How about you? Do you think that you can manage to do nothing for two minutes?

* On-going insomnia will likely prevent me from that task, but I am going to try. Another goal for the year is to finally start sleeping through the night again. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve had a full night’s sleep, and my soul could really use the rest!

The art of rest

I am nearing the end of my second full day of proper rest. It’s really hard because I can’t allow myself to do even one simple task because that will lead me to another and another and another. Giving me a task is kind of like giving a mouse a cookie.

But whilst yesterday was a complete sit around day, causing me complete boredom, at least today I managed to mix it up a bit by soaking in the tub and creating a new online photo gallery for my drawings. (Yay!)

And I drew a new picture for the gallery, too. (Double Yay!!)

I know it’s not the best picture of a tree (could you tell it was a tree?) but it has actually inspired me to draw a detailed tree that will incorporate a poem I’m composing in my head.

One more day of total rest then I’m going to the office. I know work isn’t really rest, but it’s an office job so I’m going to cheat. It’s that or go completely bonkers. And being half bonkers is bad enough. I’m not quite ready for full-on insanity!

Saving cash; depleting clutter

Like many of you, I have a habit of taking home soaps and other toiletries from hotels. And, like I’m sure some of you, I never actually use them. Yet, still, I take them.

The stuff I get from cheapy hotels sits in a plastic bag. That stuff smells bad. Well, not bad, but like perfume. (Ick.)

The stuff I get from fancy hotels sits in a nice wicker basket. That stuff smells nice. And it’s actually name-brand products from around the globe. But, still, I never use it.

But, I’m trying to pinch pennies. And I’m trying to de-clutter. So now the stuff is going to get used.

My foster daughter actually likes smelly stuff, so as soon as she’s out of her stinky body wash gel, she will be handed a bar of Motel 6 soap. And later Holiday Inn and Sheraton* soaps. Same thing when she’s out of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. And only once all the free stuff is gone will we buy new stuff.

I will be using the fancy soaps—L’Occitane, Neutrogena, Bath & Body Works. A couple of them are lightly-scented, but not perfumey. And I will be using the fancy hair stuff, too—John Frieda, Pantene, Bath & Body Works. Again, not too smelly.

I even have some dental floss, tooth paste, and deodorant. As well as a few other bits-and-bobs. And several free sewing kits, of which I think I’ll give one to a friend because I recall him needing—yet not having—a needle and thread once.**

Now, I cannot promise that I will not add more free stuff to the mix, and I cannot promise that I won’t buy new stuff from time-to-time, but at least I’ll be saving money and clearing out some clutter.

* OK, Sheraton hotels are not really on the cheap end of the spectrum, but they do use smelly products so their toiletries get tossed in with the cheap stuff.
** I know it sounds cheap to give free stuff to friends, but it’s not like it’s a proper gift and it’s not like it’s really a gift so much as a gesture of goodwill.

Food foibles

So I think I’m a mild food hoarder. Or that I have some weird food obsessions. Or both. I’ve known it for years but mostly lived alone as an adult which made it easier to deal with.

When I [finally] settled down and got married, I found that I had to work to overcome some of my food foibles. Well, actually I didn’t have to overcome them—Paul accepted them and just played my little games.

(All the while, Paul would point out how crazy I was being and remind me that we can just buy/make more of whatever food I wanted.)

Basically, my deal is that I will panic if I think that I’m not getting my fair share—or more. A normal meal of normal food won’t trigger panic, nor will going out to a traditional restaurant where I order my own meal. No, panic situations for me are buffets, pot lucks, and parties with hors d’oeuvres; shared foods like pizza, chips, and buckets of popcorn; and divided foods like a slice of cake or pie.

I really do panic if I think there won’t be enough of something for me. To solve the problem of panic, Paul would always give me the bigger half of whatever we were splitting and we’d have separate containers of popcorn. Now, almost always I would eat what I wanted then give the rest to Paul—meaning he still got more—but if he got the bigger piece to start with I would have felt panicked.

I hoard food, too. Not proper food, but junk food. I have candy and junk food stashes everywhere: In the kitchen and living rooms at home; in my office; in my car; and even in my handbag. As long as my supplies are well-stocked, I’m OK. But when they start to dwindle I really do panic. I’m afraid that I’ll never get another Love Heart again. I worry that I may want pretzels and not have access to them. But if they are there and available to me, I won’t necessarily eat them. No, just the knowledge that they are there and that I can have them any time I want is enough to give me peace of mind.

I will fantasize for days if I know that there is a food event coming up. I salivate as I wonder what great nibbles will be at a holiday party. When going to the movies, I think for hours about my snack choices before the movie–and I’ve been known to watch a movie I’m not too keen on seeing just because I want the popcorn. I get really excited when I get to go for fish-n-chips–and even more excited when I know I’m going to a sweets shops. It’s bad. Really, really bad.

I realized that I had a problem when Paul and I went through our adoption training a few years ago. Apparently, food hoarding and other issues are very common in children in the foster care system and is often directly related to neglect and the instability of a food supply at some time in their lives.

I was never starved as a child—despite my insistence ½ hour before dinner that I was dying of hunger and really needed a snack. I was well-fed and never worried that a meal wouldn’t happen. BUT, there was a fight for food growing up in that the ‘best’ foods were gone fast. Everyone got a first helping of everything on the table, but with eight people around the dinner table, sometimes there wasn’t enough for a second helping of the favourite foods for everyone. Which to a kid is complete abuse!

Also, we rarely got desserts and snacks and candy. So when we did, we made the most of it. Looking back I know that we were raised with an extremely good, balanced, and nutritious menu. But I can also see how my food obsessions may have started.

I must have snacky foods available at all times now. When I fly to the UK I have a special check list of snack foods to take with me (sweet and savoury, chewy and crunchy) even though they’ll feed me on the plane. In fact—I almost never eat the food that I take with me, but the one time I didn’t take it I was a bit freaked out over it, so Paul insisted that I pack food no matter where we were going and how long we’d be gone.

A tip to friends and family: Always offer me the last chip. I will most likely decline, but being asked will make me feel secure. Also, be prepared to have separate buckets of popcorn if we go to the movies. And don’t ask for some of my candy, but don’t be surprised if I want some of yours. In fact, I will probably pick a candy that I know you hate just to be safe.

Yes, you knew I was weird and a little lot obsessive-compulsive, but I bet you didn’t know that I was completely off my rocker when it came to food!

Bad desk; good desk

I don’t know how it happens, but I will go weeks and weeks with my desk being nice and clean then all of the sudden things start to accumulate. It’s not as if I don’t have space to store things. It’s not even as if I have to go far to put things away – I mean, 80 percent of the stuff that ends up on top of my desk actually belongs in one of the desk drawers or on the bookshelves right next to the desk.

Thankfully, when I realize I’ve become a slob I’m able to find the energy to fix the problem. And then I’m able to keep things neat and tidy for quite some time. Now, if I could just stop letting things accumulate in the first place…

Before = Bad Desk

After = Good Desk

Hanky panky

A friend from high school mentioned that she’d like to hear more about my collection of vintage handbags and handkerchiefs, so this post is for her! (And it’s about hankies, not handbags.)

I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started using handkerchiefs. If I had to guess, it was in my early-20s when my vintage handbag passion was really kicking into gear. I was finding that I really loved vintage accessories and I slowly started adding hankies to my collection of ‘stuff’. But I’m a firm believer in using things, not just letting them collect in a box hidden from sight.

Over the years, I’ve never seen handkerchiefs used by women in my age group. No, it seems that they are just not the ‘in’ thing to use. (Or maybe it’s that most women in my age group are totting small children with snotty noses around and have decided disposable tissues are just easier!)

In fact, it dawned on me a few weeks ago when I saw a man I know using a handkerchief, that other than me, that friend, and little old ladies, I’ve only seen old redneck men use handkerchiefs in recent times. And whilst my hankies remain neatly folded, the handkerchiefs of this friend and the old rednecks always seem to be crumpled in a pocket. The hankies of little old ladies tend to be stuffed in their sleeves or through the band of their watch. (In fairness, the friend I saw using one recently is neither old nor is he a redneck.)

Anyhow, it makes me wonder a few things:

  • Are there other women under the age of 60 who use handkerchiefs?
  • Are the only men who use them old rednecks or men in suits?
  • Am I the only person who doesn’t crumple their handkerchiefs?
  • If I dropped my hankie in an ever-so-dainty way, would a gallant hero come whisk me away to a land of joyful bliss and happiness like they do in the fairy tales?
  • Would a man still hand a woman his handkerchief if she was crying? And if he did and she blew her nose into it, would he want it back?

[Side note: I don’t blow my nose in my hankies. If I have a cold I carry disposable tissues for that purpose. I know, TMI, but it’s my blog and I can share what I want!]

So, I don’t know if this post really answers the request for information about my handkerchiefs, but it’s maybe a start. And if you want a bit more entertainment, you can always click on the thumbnail images below to see close-ups of some of my (clean, I promise) handkerchiefs.

And, Sharon, I promise that I’ll share more fun stories and pictures about any new vintage accessory purchases!! Yay!

Coronation candy

Today I had a permanent crown placed on a poorly tooth that’s been bothering me since early May. So, in honour of my coronation, I thought I would share a guilty little secret about what’s in my stash drawer. (Well, I say secret, but I’m sure everyone knows that I have a soft spot for candy.)

So, here are the contents of my favourite drawer:

  • 11 packs of Love Hears
  • 6 rolls of Refreshers
  • 1 large box of Sweethearts
  • 1 small box of Conversation Hearts
  • 20 Refresher lollies
  • 3 Double Lollies
  • 3 Drumstick lollies
  • 4 Tootsie Roll Pops
  • 1 large Sugar Daddy
  • 1 Ring Pop
  • 1 pack of Giant Chewy Sweet Tarts
  • A 1-pound bag of Jelly Bellies
  • 2 packs of Starbursts
  • 3 regular candy canes
  • 1 jumbo candy cane
  • 8 small packs of Parma Violets
  • 2 large tubes of Smarties
  • 6 Crunchy bars
  • 2 packs of Bubblicious gum
  • 2 tins of Altoid mints
  • ½ pack of Twizzlers
  • 2 322.5g bags of Bassett’s Allsorts
  • 1 250g bag of Murray Mints
  • 1 small pack of Murray Mints
  • 3 sticks of rock candy
  • 1 200g bag of mini Wham bars
  • 1 210g bag of Swizzels Matlow Sweets (which means more Love Hearts!)
  • 10 Tootsie Rolls
  • And a few random bits-and-bobs

Oh, and in addition to the candy drawer, I have a crystal candy dish filled with Murray Mints and Life Savers. There are also a few lollypops in my handbag. Then there’s the supply in the glove box of the car. And don’t forget my stash of Love Hearts and Refreshers in my office desk. And like any other hoarder, I’m sure there are stashes of sweets I’ve forgotten about. Or that I’m too embarrassed to acknowledge publically.

Yeah, it’s a shocker that I’m not sporting a full set of dentures, huh?

Punctuate this!

Yay! Today is National Punctuation Day. And if you know me at all you know that this is a day I love to celebrate.

So here’s to the proper use of those amazing little marks and their ever-important jobs of clarifying meaning by indicating the separation of words into sentences, clauses, and phrases.

WooHoo!

Apostrophe: Predominately used to indicate the omission of one or more letters (contraction) or for the marking of possessives.

Brackets and parenthesis: Used as matched sets to set apart or interject other or supplementary text.

Colon: As a general rule, a colon informs the reader that the following proves, explains, or simply provides elements of what is referred to before.

Comma: Used to indicate a separation of ideas or of elements within the structure of a sentence.
(And let us not forget the awesomeness of the Oxford comma!)

Dash: (of which there are two primary types: en dash and em dash; not to be confused with a hyphen)
En dash: Used to show a range of values, relationships and connections, compound adjectives, and to relate parenthetical expressions.
Em dash: Often used for the demarcation of parenthetical thoughts or similar interpolation but also used to indicate an unfinished sentence when a quoted speaker is interrupted.

Ellipsis: Usually indicates an intentional omission of a word in original text but can also be used to indicate a pause in speech or an unfinished thought.

Exclamation mark: Generally used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume, and often marks the end of a sentence.

Hyphen: Used to join words or to separate the syllables in a single word.

Kissend*: A common way to sign off on a message (hand-written or electronic) in the UK – though without the same lovey-dovey connotation it would carry in the USA. x

Period (full stop): Used as the concluding punctuation to most sentences but can also be used to mark initialisms or abbreviations.

Question mark: A mark most often found at the end of a sentence or phrase to indicate a direct question.

Quotation marks: Used primarily to mark the beginning and end of a passage attributed to another and repeated word for word.

Semicolon: Used to connect independent clauses and indicating a closer relationship between the clauses than a period.

* OK, I made up the name for that bit of punctuation, but it’s a punctuation mark that I like and I decided that it needed a name so there you have it: A kissend. x

Just a quick trip

So there I was in line at the British Airways counter at SeaTac. With me were three of my five sisters and their kids and a wanna-be sister (that’s you, J.D.) and her kids. (For those counting, that’s 13 people.) I was the only one of the group with experience traveling overseas, so I was the spokeswoman for us. Or maybe that was because I’m bossy and controlling. Either way, I was the leader.

I start handing passports over to the nice woman behind the counter and all of the sudden I realize that mine is dog-eared. Now, this panicked me. I was very upset about having a not-pretty passport so asked her to begin processing the information for the other 12 people in my travel party whilst I popped over to the instant passport printing machine. I took all of three minutes to get my new passport and it was fab! I even managed to include my signature green on the information page. It was an extra $10 for the customized look, but well worth it!

Once back at the counter, we finished the check-in process and made our way through the security lines. In front of us was David Tennant. We struck up a conversation and he was pleased to learn that he was speaking to Just Frances of Internet fame. So pleased, in fact, that he asked for some pens. Left-handed ones to boot!

Before I knew it we were on a plane bound for Heathrow. It must have been the shortest flight in the world because within moments we’d landed and were heading through immigration before heading to the train station. I’d really wanted to fly up north, but the romantic notion of train travel carried by my travel companions meant that I was out-voted. So instead, we took a long and boring train journey to Scotland; my companions pointing out every old building and spray-paint-dotted sheep along the route. (I think I was smiling secretly as I recalled my first train journey in the UK.)

Finally, we arrived at Waverly Station in Edinburgh and made our way to my friend’s amazing country house – which was only about a two-minute walk from the station.

As the rest of the group got settled into their rooms for the night, I sat there visiting with my friend who was preparing to make me a cuppa tea. We were having a great little chat when all of the sudden the kettle started whistling.

At the same time, my alarm clock started to go off. Yep, it was time to re-enter reality and go to work. Oh well. Maybe I can return to my lovely conversation tonight. After all, it’s not fair that everyone else’s holiday was cut short when I awoke from my dream.

Running commentary

When I run I think. Even when I’m listening to my iPod, my mind is racing through one thought after another. It jumps from here to there with silly randomness. I can’t control it; I’ve tried. But I suppose that it does tell a lot about the sorts of things that weigh on my mind, because often the things that I think about when I’m running are not the things I would think about if I were told to sit down and think.

I don’t want to scare anyone away. And worse, I don’t want anyone to think I’ve finally cracked and it’s time for a padded cell. But I’m going to share some of the random thoughts that pop into my head when I’m running.

  • OK Frances! You’ve got four miles to run today and you’re going to do it! Let’s go!
  • Hey, the rec center is pretty nice when it’s empty!
  • I should have done this yesterday when I was out. Then I could have just vegged out on the couch today.
  • I have to remember to re-wash the towels when I get home. Stupid rain storm! I guess it’s my fault for not bringing them in off the line last night. But still. Stupid rain storm!
  • I wonder if that old lady who called my number by mistake yesterday ever got a hold of her friend.
  • Why do I get so many wrong number calls? Oh, I hate that!
  • I was really dismissive of my friend when he suggested a time for a phone chat over the weekend. I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings. I guess I wasn’t mean, I just declined the invitation. So, whatever.
  • Actually, I have been pretty mean to him lately. He must be a masochist or he would have written me off by now.
  • He must know I don’t mean to be mean. But that’s still not fair. I just need to stop taking my frustration out on the innocent!
  • I really do have nice friends.
  • I’m actually pretty lucky to have made a couple of new friends this last year. I must stop referring to them as Paul’s friends one of these days because they’re my friends now, too.
  • Blogs are great! I’m enjoying getting to know one of my new friends by reading her blog. It makes me feel like I’ve known her my entire life. I wish I did. I bet life would have been a lot funner with a friend like her growing up.
  • Oh! Must email her sister about my holiday plans for this fall. It will be fun to meet her for the first time. If she’s anything like her little sis, it will be a blast.
  • I need to make sure I’ve blocked my work calendar. I suppose I’ll have to check my email a bit when I’m in Canada, but that’s OK.
  • Wow! It’s almost October. I need to formally RSVP to Lindsay about her wedding. I hope I can manage more than a long-weekend. A two nights’ stay in Scotland isn’t exactly what I’d call a holiday.
  • I wonder if I can wear the dress that I wore to last year’s Old Hacks’ dinner to her wedding. I mean, it’s a different set of people and I don’t think that any of Paul’s old university friends will be there… I really don’t want to have to go dress shopping…
  • I wonder if I can find someone to go to the wedding with me. I’m not looking forward to going to a wedding by myself right now. Especially one that Paul should be at. He was really looking forward to her wedding.
  • Ugg! Has it only been two miles?! I am so out of shape. This is hard. I wonder if I can just call it a day…
  • Yum. That banana bread I had this morning was really good. I should make more. No, I should make pumpkin bread. And I should really remember to tie my hair back because I found one of my hairs in the last loaf. Yuck. Oh well, at least it was my own hair…
  • I wonder what I’d be doing today if Paul hadn’t died?
  • I guess we’d have finalized the adoption by now, so we’d have gone to Sunday Mass with the kids.
  • Yum! Then we would have made a big Sunday roast. Paul really did make the best Yorkshire puddings. I wish I’d let him teach me how to make them. Now I’ll never know.
  • I wonder what the kids would have thought about having a ‘funny foreigner’ for a daddy. I wonder if we’d have been good parents…
  • I wonder if I’ll ever get to be a mom now…
  • Oh! I like this song, I’m going to turn it up.
  • Stop it! Don’t sing along!
  • Wow! I’ve almost gone four miles already. I feel great! Maybe I’ll run five miles instead…
  • No, maybe not Frances. Four and a quarter miles is a long enough run. Start your cool down before you drop!
  • Maybe I’ll start a new draft of my application letter this afternoon.
  • I have to email Anna to figure out when to meet. It’s going to be so nice to catch up with her. It’s going to be so nice to have her help with my letter!!
  • I wonder when I’ll hear if I’ve gotten accepted…
  • I wonder which school I’d rather go to…
  • Ah, who cares! You’ll go to whichever one accepts you and you’ll be grateful for it!
  • I wonder if… NO! Don’t start wondering about what will happen if you don’t get accepted. Be positive.
  • I am beat! Can I stop now?
  • Oh, go on! You’re only a quarter mile from five. Keep going…
  • Must remember to buy onions and goat cheese so that I can make that risotto recipe.
  • And cat food. Don’t forget the cat food!
  • Way-hey!! That’s five miles! My furthest distance in more than a year. Who cares if I walked that last three-quarter mile? I’m counting it!

Yeah. That’s the highlights. The conversation in my head continued into the locker room, through the grocery store, and on the 25-mile drive home. If only there was a way to harness the energy created by useless thoughts…

Set in stone

I struggled with how to start this post, or if I would even write it at all because it’s hard to know what how to ‘announce’ that your husband’s headstone has finally arrived to mark his grave. It’s hard to know if it’s something that should be shared with the world, or kept as a silent occasion. I struggled to decide if sharing something so personal would offend readers of Just Frances or if sharing this part of my life would be well-received.

In the end, I decided that I needed to share with the world because I find comfort in writing and I’ve had several people contact me saying that they, in turn, find comfort in reading what I’ve written.

So, the big announcement is that after 15 months, there is finally a permanent marker at Paul’s grave in America. Whilst some may say that the delay was a sign of disrespect (in fact, one did!) it took as long as it did because I wanted to be certain that I was choosing something that would be a fitting tribute to Paul. And if I know Paul, he would be surprised that I didn’t take even more time to decide!

I was fortunate that no one pushed me to order a headstone when I was making funeral arrangements. I’ve read so many accounts from young widow(er)s who regret the decisions that were urged upon them in those frightening and confusing hours and days after their spouse passed away. Instead, no one asked me about a headstone at all. Certainly, I made dozens and dozens of other decisions in those early hours, and I don’t regret any of them, but I don’t know that I would have been able to make decisions on a headstone without later regret.

I think I knew what I wanted for Paul’s headstone early on, but it wasn’t until December – more than eight months after he died – that I was finally ready to meet with the monument company to make arrangements for its design. Of course, in true Frances style, what I wanted was not commonly available so had to be custom-designed. And my OCD-tendencies meant several back-and-forth sketches before I was happy with it; which meant that from my initial meeting with the monument company until its placement at the cemetery, it took about seven months to complete – partially because it required a lot of custom hand carving and partially because I didn’t want to rush myself.

I wanted something simple and traditional, but something that was fitting for both of our likes. Knowing that it would need to include a cross, I decided the main design would be Paul’s favorite cross: the St. Martin’s Cross from the Iona Abbey in Scotland. Paul always enjoyed talking about the island’s role in bringing Christianity to Britain, and we had been looking for a nice replica of the cross to hang in our living room before he died.

For several weeks, I’d been anxious and excited for the headstone’s delivery, but when I learned the date of the installation, it made me sad. Paul’s headstone was no longer a theoretical object sometime in the future, but a real, tangible symbol of my husband’s death. It was difficult to see our names* etched in stone; it was painful to see the stone standing there. But strangely, I found comfort in it, too. As I stood there looking at the stone and feeling the coolness of the granite with my hands, I felt good knowing that for generations to come there will be evidence of my amazing husband’s (short) life on this Earth.

Paul and I had always talked about making a trip to the Isle of Iona one day, and I now feel more compelled than ever to travel to the island and see the original cross standing where it’s stood for more than 1,200 years. I know it will be hard to do alone, knowing that it was something we’d planned to do together, but I’m certain that I’ll find a bit of peace standing there on my own knowing that Paul is in my heart.

I thank my God for every remembrance of you.
~ Philippians 1:3

* For my UK readers, I realize that it may seem strange to have my name included on the stone at this point. Whilst not necessarily the ‘standard’ in America, it is a very common format and one that I chose to use because it brought me a certain amount of comfort. Which is weird. But so am I.

To train and listen

I am one of those people who pushes herself a little (a lot?) too hard when there’s a goal to be met. But I’m trying to listen to my body a little more so that I don’t push to the point of illness or injury.

My 11-year-old nephew and I are currently training for a 10K race on 10/10/10 and decided to use today as a chance to get a run in on the Bill Chipman Trail. The four-mile run would be his longest – ever – and the furthest I’ve run in more than a year. Oh, and it was a hot, hot, hot day!

As we got going, I told the kid we’d be taking it slow. He was happy to go along with that plan. As we neared the two-mile marker I was pleased to see that it was actually about a quarter mile closer than I’d remembered, which gave me a bit of a (much needed) energy kick.

But as we neared mile three I could feel myself weakening. I’d not eaten breakfast (bad!) and I’d not had nearly enough water over the past few days (also bad!). Part of my brain said to keep going – after all, it was only another mile – but the other part couldn’t help but remember the dream I’d had the night before where I collapsed and was unable to call out for help.

It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to walk the last mile. And as I walked I reminded myself that I’ve not been training much, I have two ‘major medical’ obstacles to deal with, and I’m no longer the high school cross country star. (What? I’m not a teenager anymore? Oh no!)

I can accept that my nephew will get a better time at the race in October, but I can’t accept that I won’t be able to finish the race. So, I’ve promised myself that I will make a strong effort to eat better, stay hydrated, keep training, and (most importantly) listen to my body!

Yep, time to get ready to run!

Building my library

I posted a while back about my mission to expand my incredibly eclectic music collection, with the goal to fill my iPod Classic to its capacity of 40,000 songs. Since then, I’ve purchased a few CDs and have borrowed CDs from various family and friends.

I am pleased to say that I now have 4,499 songs!

I’m up to 26 genres (from 24) with the top three being rock (109 albums), alternative (80), and jazz/bluegrass (72). Country was third last time, but dropped to fourth with just 56 albums, up from 35.

Of course, I’m also getting quite the collection of podcasts but have been neglecting listening to them all! I currently have 425 in my library including 234 English language ‘tips’ for good grammar and 128 Gaelic language lessons for when I (finally) start learning a funny foreign language.*

Most days, all of the music is set to random play/shuffle when I’m at the office. I figured that I must have listened to most of the songs at least once, but after a quick review, it seems that nearly half haven’t even gotten one play! I sometimes think I should do what a friend is doing and listen to everything in order from A-Z, but I’m just not that dedicated so each song will have to take its chance with the listening lottery.

*I did take two years’ of French in high school, but I didn’t retain any of it. I then took two years’ of American Sign Language at university and now enjoy eavesdropping on ASL users when I’m out-and-about. (Yes, I’m a little ashamed of this – but only a little.)

What do you feed a hungry ego? Pens!

Blogs are great for the ego. Here on Just Frances I rule the content; it’s all about me and I can say anything I want. (I will always aim for a PG or PG-13/12A rating however.) Those who know me well know that I’m a bit of a megalomaniac. Those who don’t know me well probably assume that I am. In fact, I admit that I am.

As part of that megalomania, I have a not-so-secret fantasy to be a world-renowned social media go-to girl where my blog is quoted in leading media outlets around the world and is one day found on Technorati’s “Top 100 Blogs” list along with Gizmodo and Boing Boing. But that’s a fantasy I don’t see happening any time soon!

But a few weeks ago someone asked what I was doing to build exposure to my blog and I realized that I wasn’t doing anything. I include the URL in my email signature line; I post stories to my Facebook and Twitter accounts; I mention it in passing to family and friends; a few people link to my blog from their blogs. But that’s it. I wasn’t actively “doing” anything to help my cause.

I started to realize that as a communications professional – one who hopes to study the impacts of social media on modern society for her master’s dissertation – I really have no excuse for not working to gain more exposure for my blog. I mean, I have the know-how; I can market the heck out of myself if I’d just let my ego convince my self-esteem that I’m pretty awesome. After all, I am made with 100% pure awesomeness!

And so, I ordered pens! I found a vendor who would do a small batch of pens with my own graphic for a very reasonable price and ordered 100 of the little guys. They were meant to be printed so that the logo was right-side up when the pen was held in the left hand, but (sadly) they arrived printed for right-handers. I’m a bit frustrated by this misprint, but have sent a message to the vendor to see about rectifying the issue. I’m too excited to wait, however, so am announcing their (misprinted) arrival now!*

So here’s the deal: In order for this plan to work, I need to get these pens into the hands of others so that more people visit Just Frances! If any of my faithful readers would like a couple to pass on to their friends or to random strangers, let me know and I’ll get some out to you. Of course, you should keep one for yourself, too. You can use the contact form at the top of the blog or pop me an email if you know my address, but speak soon; supplies are limited!

Help me fulfill my egocentric desire to become a social media maven. You know you want to!

*Depending on what the response from the vendor’s customer service department is, I may delay handing out pens until left-handed ones arrive. Stay tuned for an update! (But feel free to put in your request for pens now!)

UPDATE: The vendor is re-doing the pens with the “left-handed” logo I’d requested, but I get to keep the “right-handed” pens, too. Which means I have twice as many pens, but also means you can request the style you’d prefer!

Hail, Caesar!

I’m on a bit of a Caesar salad kick these days. Where I used to be extremely creative with my weekly dinner menus and ate mostly healthy, whole foods, I gave up cooking after Paul died. I just didn’t have the heart for it. But, a few months ago I finally started to use the kitchen again. Though very sporadically!

For a few weeks I was on a salmon kick. That segued into an Ahi kick which somehow morphed into an artichoke and pasta kick.

In between fits and starts of proper cooking, I’ve sustained myself with overly-processed, food-like substances that Paul and I used to mock people for eating!

But now I’m (sort of) getting back into cooking again. And I don’t know why but my new obsession is Caesar salads. I’ve been steaming a couple of chicken breasts ahead of time then cutting them into bits so that when I get home from work I just need to chop of some fresh Romaine and tomatoes.

I know that salad drenched in dressing with the addition of  croutons, olives, and Parmesan cheese isn’t the healthiest option but I’m guessing it’s better than TV dinners. One day I’m sure that I’ll get back in the habit of creating weekly menus full of healthy goodness, but in the mean time, I’ll settle for at least three healthy(ish) meals a day.

Up for tomorrow is a grilled tuna steak with angel hair pasta and fresh artichokes. Or more Caesar salad. We’ll see.

Re-learning obsessive-compulsive behaviors

Anyone who has known me long knows that I am one of those geeky, overly-organized, slightly obsessive-compulsive, and highly meticulous people. Oh, and I have a great memory and am extremely detail-oriented. Well, I used to be.

Sadly, when Paul died many of those traits went to the way-side. As my world was enveloped by a thick fog of grief and despair, my brain turned to mush. My ability to concentrate was gone, as was my memory and my motivation. I really wanted to be organized and obsessive, but couldn’t. It’s a phenomenon often spoken about in the ‘Land of Widowhood’ and even has it’s own term: Widda Brain.

More than a year later, some of the fog is slowly lifting. But I’m not back to my brand of normal. And if I’m honest, I don’t know that I’ll ever find that normal. No, I’m learning that I will need to create a new normal.

I have neglected so many tasks over the past year – big ones, small ones, and everything in between. I find it frustrating that I can’t find the energy to do the simplest tasks some days and try as I may, I’ve yet to find the motivation I need.

So, I am trying a new plan. I am taking all of the tasks I have to do and breaking them down into Post-It size bites. The task of writing a application letter for my master’s degree is broken into several small pieces starting with one note that simply says: “Write first paragraph for university application”. Some notes are basic parts of a larger step whilst others are a one simple task on one note that should be fairly easy to complete – if I get the motivation to pick that note.

Anyhow, I’ve dedicated half of the top surface of my desk to the “Frances Needs to Get it Together Post-It Plan”. When one sticky is gone, I will replace it with a new task. And, hopefully, I will slowly start to find some motivation and maybe – just maybe – one day my memory will return along with all of my favorite OCD-ish personality traits that I lost when Paul died.

In the mean time, here’s a stock tip for my readers: Buy 3M and Sharpie shares ASAP!

Egg-tastic!

Twice a year, an old urban legend is told about the possibility of balancing an egg on end during the spring and autumn equinoxes. It always gives me a giggle because, whilst it is possible to do it, it has nothing to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its positioning to the Sun but rather is possible any day of the year – if someone has enough patience.

Tonight I watched The West Wing season 4, episode 20 (“Evidence of Things Not Seen”) where C.J. Craig tries to convince Toby Ziegler and Will Bailey of this possibility. Which, of course, means that I spent about an hour trying to balance an egg myself.

As evident by the photo, I did manage to get that damn egg to balance on end. But I must confess, it was only after I reached for a tube of lip balm sitting on the table. After sweeping a thin line of the balm on the bottom of the egg it balanced with ease! And it’s not even an equinox!

Solar-powered clothes dryer

Carrying on with the hippy-granola-freak of a homeowner theme, I’m pleased to announce that I got to use one of my favorite house-hold appliances today for the first time of the year. Yes, I’m talking about my way-awesome solar-powered clothes dryer!

I used it a couple of times last summer, but wasn’t too enthusiastic about anything last year so didn’t feel the same sense of pride and joy that I felt using it today. It’s one of those strange things: I hate doing laundry most of the year, but the moment I can hang clothes on the line to dry, all of the sudden I’m Dot Branning! In fact, Paul did the laundry in our home all year long – with the exception of nice weekends in the spring and summer because that’s when I would volunteer for the job. (He didn’t like to hang clothes out to dry, so if I wanted line-dried stuff, I had to do it.)

So, today I washed all of the bedding and towels from when I had company last weekend. Tomorrow I will wash clothes. One of the great things with this environmentally-friendly device is it means that I washed the bedding within a week – where I would normally wait until the day before new guests were to arrive; which in this case might not be until mid-July (not counting un-planned visits by the folks, which happily happens every few weeks or so).

Oh! But did I tell you the best thing about line-drying sheets? No wrinkles! When I use a tumble dryer it seems that they always come out a bit wrinkly, even when I remove them the moment the buzzer goes off. With the solar-powered device, I am meticulous about how I hang them (partially folded) so that when I remove them from the line they are crisp and wrinkle-free. Yay!! (And they smell lovely, too!)

Retro mowing

When Paul and I bought our house two years ago, we decided that we wanted to continue our “hippy-granola-freak” lifestyle in our yard care efforts. So, I picked up the old (and I mean old!) lawn mower from my folks’ house the weekend we moved. The next weekend we spent the whole day out in the yard – and met pretty much every neighbor because people kept stopping by to offer use of their gas-powered mowers. Some offered to have their kids come by on the riding mowers, too. It was difficult for people to believe that we really wanted to use the relic mower!

Paul would tell people: “I asked my wife for a multi-gym and this is what I got!”

Last year the old mower never got used. Instead, in the days after Paul died the neighbors all started to care for the lawn. Every week or so, someone would come around on their riding mower and just take care of it for me.

I decided that I really need (and sort of want) to take care of it on my own this year. Between being sick and the bad weather, however, it was difficult to get out and mow. Luckily, someone has come by three times in the past several weeks to mow for me.

The weather was nice today, however, so I took out my trusty mower and mowed a good-sized section of the front yard. And – wow! – it was hard work! I think that I’ll have to mow a little bit each evening to keep up on it – or buy a new mower that’s easier to use.

We’d spoke about purchasing a new push reel mower last spring, and I think that I certainly need to do it this year. So… I think I’m going to check out Tri-State (Idaho’s Most Interesting Store) this weekend and see about buying a new-fangled old fashion mower. It will still be environmentally friendly, but it will be a lot lighter and a lot easier to use.

Here’s a link to the sorts of things I’m looking at. I am, of course, happy to listen to recommendations for which push reel is best!

(And yes, I know I’m crazy. But then, so does everyone else!)

Identity crisis

Since Paul died I’ve really struggled with my identity, which is a bit ironic when I think about the identity struggle I went through as a newlywed. Part of my identity struggle has been my online presence. Paul and I both maintained separate emails (something of an anomaly in my family) and both participated on various online forums without supervision or input from each other. Additionally, I’ve maintained blogs on several subjects for quite several years. If Paul did the same, he never told me. But then, he didn’t necessarily know of all the blogs I maintained.*

The one thing we had together was our website, www.RyanCentric.com. It was his idea, and whilst I did the actual work of creating and maintaining the site, it was very much a joint effort. After he died, I couldn’t bear to look at the site, let alone update it. But eventually, I felt comfortable doing both. But it didn’t really fill my needs, so I started a blog as a sub-domain off of RyanCentric to post random thoughts with the idea of maintaining RyanCentric as what it was meant to be: Stories and photos of my latest-and-greatest adventures. Only, it still feels strange to add stories about ME instead of about US.

Further, I’ve felt a bit schizophrenic maintaining the website, the blog, plus the added photo galleries. Things were become a bit too disjointed and I wanted to be able to share everything with my family and friends in one place. So, in the best geeky way I know, I registered a new domain.

What does all of this mean to you? Well, it means that one link will get you everywhere you want to go in my little world. Well, everywhere that Just Frances goes at least. And that’s the link: www.JustFrances.com. From there, you will find all of my blog postings and links to my photo albums. You will also find a link to RyanCentric, which will remain live but I will (probably) no longer post to it. If I do post to it, rest assured that I will cross-post here.

You may find redirects here and there as I try to make everything fit together, but for the most part the only difference you’ll notice is the URL.

I’m not promising that this will solve my identity crisis – in fact, I seriously doubt it will. But it will make my online world a little easier to manage, and as the majority of my social interaction is online these days, it makes sense to ease the burden!

*Blogs I maintained or contributed to with or without Paul’s knowledge were done so without any malicious intent and did not include questionable material. Just likely not topics he would care about such as my political views or ones related to my passion for (obsession with?) the proper use of the English language.

Tulips: Day 1

Tulips are my favorite flowers. I love how they are so simple that they can bring elegance to even the most basic of vessels. I love the way they seem to dance around after they’ve been placed in pretty vase; the way they reach and stretch and grow after they’ve been cut – as if to tell the world that they are strong and they will survive and adapt to their new environment.

For something so simple, they truly are so complex.

I enjoy watching tulips change, and like to sit and stare at them from time-to-time, remembering what they looked like yesterday or even earlier that very day. And I often wonder to myself just how much they grow with each day. It’s such a trivial thing, but I find pleasure in it and I wish that Paul was here to share in that silly little joy.

But since he’s not here, and I still find dancing tulips so much fun that I really want to share it with someone, I’ll use my narcissism-based blog to share it with everyone. (Come on, I know you care or you wouldn’t have made Just Frances your browser’s home page!)

To that, I present to you:

Tulips Day 1
Purchased at Safeway for about $4.00, these 10 stems of reddish-pink and yellow tulips were cut short because they will continue to grow all week long. Each day, I will photograph them and share new measurements. Moments after being placed in the vase and on the mantle, these measured 16″ from the mantle to the tallest bit of flower – in this case, that was one of the leafs.

Check back tomorrow to see how the tulip dance is going!!

Indoor-outdoor cat

Last summer I purchased a slightly-expensive, gadgety cat door for Schrodie. It’s great because it is sensor-activated, meaning that only Schrodie can come and go – eliminating the fears and nightmares of Satan’s evil footmen (that means skunks) entering my home through the door.

The cat wears a little sensor on her collar which activates the flappy-thingy, allowing her access. There are four settings: In and Out; In Only; Out Only; or Nothing. I have it set for In and Out.

She was most certainly an indoor cat when we adopted her at eight months old and Paul and I spent a long day introducing her to the great outdoors the week before he died. It was important to me that the cat continue experiencing the outdoors but as I was at work all day I would need a cat door to achieve that. After the door was installed I showed the cat how to use it but she wasn’t too keen on it – or the outdoors. In fact, the only time the cat would use the door was if you tossed her outside. Then she’d run straight back in faster than you’d imagine!

For the past week, I’ve been finding little bits of nature in the house – twigs and leafs, mostly – and have suspected that maybe, just maybe, Schrodie has finally started to go out whilst I was at work. This suspicion has been even stronger the past few days when she’s not been on the bed when I go to sleep or wake up.

And today the proof came in! For the first time, the cat wasn’t waiting for me just inside the kitchen door. So I walked out to the shop and opened that door (the one where the cat door is) and there she was. Outside. Soaking up the evening air. OUTSIDE!

I am such a proud cat owner today. I almost shed a tear of joy. Almost… but I’m not quite that pathetic of a cat lady. Yet…

Very taxing

I finally filed my taxes. I say finally because I normally have mine completed and filed the first week of February – based on the fact that tax documents generally arrive the last week of January. Yep, a geek to the core I used to love doing my taxes. And this year I tried, but just couldn’t do it through the tears. I think it had something to do with the box that I needed to tick that read: Qualifying Widow.

Instead, I made an appointment with an accountant then spent the weekend getting my files together – something that was more difficult than normal because I seem to have lost some of my over-the-top organizational skills since Paul died. I think having someone do my taxes for me was a good idea though, because I may never have gotten them done otherwise!

But I know what you’re wondering: Did I get a refund?

Yes I did! And a bit more than expected!

Being the responsible person I am, I am using the majority of the money for a major purchase that I’ve been putting off. But because Paul always thought that tax refunds should be used for fun, I will use the rest for something I don’t need.

I will not use the money for a new refrigerator or water heater. I will not use it toward the cost of a new furnace or car repairs. It won’t go toward my student loans or mortgage principal; I won’t roll it into my 401K or my IRA. No CDs or savings bonds. No, this money will be used frivolously – even though that goes against my frugal nature.

I wish I could use it for a trip to my nephew’s wedding in Cuba this June, but I can’t. So I’ll need to think of another trip I can take or useless gadget I can purchase.

A summer trip to California or British Columbia? A flight to Scotland for a friend’s wedding in October? The possibilities are endless!

I think dreaming up ways to spend the money might be just as much fun as the actual spending…

First bag

A conversation this afternoon reminded me that it’s time to swap out handbags; something I’ve not done since returning from my holidays so it’s really time I get in gear! Of course, what this really means is that I am going to share more useless information with you. Yay!

My handbag of choice isn’t really a “bag” but it still falls into the clutch category, which falls into the overall handbag category, so I’m counting it. It measures 8.5″ across, 4.25″ high (not including handle), and 2″ deep. When open the “lid” side is a full mirror.

Given to me by my Mom when I was in high school, this is the bag that started it all! I was really into vintage clothing and accessories at the time, but didn’t generally carry a handbag because I never saw the use in them. I don’t recall the circumstance that led to my ownership of the bag, just that it became mine. And as I started to carry it I got all sorts of fantastic compliments on it, and really enjoyed telling people that it had been my Mom’s bag in the 1960s.

Of course, after a while everyone knew the story and my old bag was old news. And then someone else gave me an old bag and the compliments and “back story” telling started again. It wasn’t long until I found an obsession with vintage bags!

But the best thing about vintage bags? Most of them have limited space which means I don’t get stuck carrying useless junk everywhere with me. And because I like to swap them out regularly, I tend not to have weeks’ old receipts and garbage cluttering the precious space.

And because I know you care, here is a list of the contents of my bag on an average day:

  • Lip balm
  • Drivers’ license
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Nail file (in a protective case so that the abrasive material doesn’t scratch anything else in the bag)
  • Handkerchief
  • Ponytail holder
  • Business cards
  • Pen
  • Mobile phone
  • Keys
  • Candy

The problem with Seattle*

It’s Monday night and I’m busy getting ready for my holidays: Doing laundry; packing; cooking up ‘leftover stew’ with the contents of the fridge to put in the freezer (can’t have spoiled food when I return!); and reassuring Schrodie that I really do love her, despite the fact that I’m abandoning her yet again…

The frustrating thing is that I don’t actually leave until Wednesday, but because I’m flying out of the Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) I have to leave a full day before. It’s a nearly six-hour drive to the airport from my house – IF there’s no traffic and IF the mountain pass is clear (February? That’s a very iffy if!). And so, I’m getting ready tonight so that I can drive to my folks’ house tomorrow (that’s about four hours away) then on Wednesday morning, Daddy will drive me and Mom to SeaTac.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do like the idea of flying out of SeaTac. As the largest airport in the state, it offers non-stop flights into Europe, where leaving from Spokane (which is only an hour away) would mean a stop somewhere in the states – and an added 5+ hours to the journey – for international flights. You could argue that I’ve already used up that time by driving clear across the state just to get to the airport, and you’d be correct! But, since I’m taking this journey with Mom, a long drive one way or another just had to happen.

But here’s the problem as I really see it: I like to have every bit of clothing cleaned, and freshly-made beds before I leave. In a world where I left my house straight for the airport, I would do laundry before bed so that the only dirty clothes being left behind were my jammies and unmentionables (::blush::) from the night before. However, in this scenario, I will be leaving a complete outfit as well as my jammies and unmentionables behind. OK, this really just means an extra pair of trousers, an extra top, and a pair of socks, and that there won’t be time to make up the bed with fresh sheets AND wash the old ones before I leave, but it’s just enough to cause my obsessive-compulsive issues (did I mention I have those?) into overdrive.

(A saving grace: The housekeeper will be in a couple of days before my return, so I can have her take care of the bed for me. But there won’t be enough dirty clothes to warrant her doing the washing.)

(A second saving grace: Thanks to the inspiration of a friend in Scotland, I am enjoying a Hefeweizen (or two) whilst packing. Yes, on a school night!)

Oh, and a random memory of Paul as I look at the photo with this story: Last February as I packed for a trip to the UK with Paul, he noticed for the first time that I actually have a well-organized packing list which I use for travel – tick-boxes and all! He laughed and laughed and laughed. But when we got  to England, I had everything I needed. Lucky for him, I did his packing, too. (I know, I truly am OCD!)

*OK, the title isn’t fair. It leads one to believe that there is just one problem with Seattle (or the greater Puget Sound area, really) and folks from “The 509” know that there are certainly many more problems than that! I’m quite certain that if you stick around, there will be more complaints offered about the Wet/West Side of the state!